The Rugged History of Duffle Bags

The Rugged History of Duffle Bags

A leather duffle bag is, perhaps, the most useful piece of luggage you can own. They can be used as casual weekend bags, or they can be used as durable baggage for long trips. But where does the duffle bag come from?

Here’s the history of duffle bags, and why they are great pieces of luggage.

17th Century Origins

Rucksacks and similar tools have been used virtually since wool and animal hide were used to carry items. But animal hide and cloth had limitations; the bags themselves were subject to the elements, leaving the items inside exposed. But in the 17th century, this all changed.

In the 1600s, Spanish and Portuguese ships dominated the seas. Sailors often had rucksacks, but being out on ships, the saltwater would often damage or ruin these bags. So, they began using leftover scraps of coarse fabric that was used to repair sails to make their bags.

Turns out, the fabric used for sails was highly resistant to seawater, heat, rain and other elements. This fabric was made by just one supplier, who was from the town of Duffel, Belgium. Thus, the duffel bag was born.

Duffle Bags in War

The first American use of duffle bags was in World War I. At that time, however, the bags were smaller, like a knapsack. They were hard to lug around and handle and were therefore often left by soldiers in the trenches. World War II brought a few usability changes to the bags, but the biggest improvements happened after the war.

Duffle bags weren’t really used outside of military applications until after World War II. During the war, sturdy straps were added, and the bags themselves were made longer and wider. Post-war, they were often found at military surplus stores and in use by veterans, thus making them incredibly popular.

That popularity has only grown over the past decades. Functionality has increased, and now duffle bags are made from all sorts of materials. Leather duffle bags are a common choice, as are waxed canvas bags. The bags may zip or may open on one end to load. They also come in a variety of sizes to meet every need.

Duffel vs. Duffle Bags

“Duffel,” as we mentioned before, is the name of a town in Belgium. That town is where the original material for the bags was manufactured, so the bag was given that name as well.

“Duffle,” on the other hand, is the English corruption of the word. While “duffel” can refer to the bag or the town, “duffle” only refers to the bag. This spelling came about in the early 20th century. You can still find both spellings, depending on the region or specific writer. At Go Forth Goods, we prefer to use “duffle.”

What Makes a Good Duffle Bag?

When you’re looking for a duffle bag, you want to find one made from good material. For instance, a leather duffle bag should be made from top-grain or full-grain leather. Otherwise, your bag may fall apart easily.

You should also find a bag that’s sturdily built. This means strong seamwork and strong rivets and zippers. Your bag should also be made from as few pieces of leather as possible to ensure there are as few weak points as possible.

Finally, choosing the right duffle bag means choosing one that fits your style and needs. If you know you’ll only be using it for short trips, a smaller bag would be needed. But long trips are your style, a larger duffle bag is in order.

Find the Right Leather Duffle Bag for You

If you’re looking for a new leather duffle bag, Go Forth Goods has what you need. Our American-made, high-quality bags will stand the test of time. Shop our collection online, or visit our retail store to find the perfect duffle --- or duffel --- bag for all your travel needs.

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